© John Allan - geograph.org.uk/p/6284132

Location: Skye
the natural world, fishing

Gavin Maxwell and the isle of Soay

Soay is the smallest of the small isles. There are only three or four people living there now, although at one time there were many more. Just after the Second World War, the island was purchased by Gavin Maxwell, who wrote the book ‘The Ring of Bright Water’. He did a lot of conservation work for the Scottish sea otter.

What is less well known about Gavin Maxwell is that he established a basking shark fishery in Soay. Tex Geddes joined him as a business partner in the late 40s. The fishery only operated between 1945 and 48. In that time, they killed over 4000 basking sharks and almost wiped them out of the area completely. Towards the end of that time, they realised there was more money in harvesting the livers of the sharks, so they removed the livers and discarded the carcasses. It was not until 1998 that it was made illegal to hunt basking sharks in Scotland. Since then, the species has made a good recovery and levels in the area are now healthier.

As contributed by Sandy Mackinnon, resident of Elgol and skipper on the Misty Isle boat trips

More information on visiting the area can be found here.